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Tipton commission approves wind ordinance; Compromise positions prevail in long-running debate over wind farms

TIPTON – The Tipton County Plan Commission has approved a new ordinance that will regulate the development of wind farms in the future.

After months of discussing changes to the county’s existing wind ordinance, plan commission members voted Wednesday to recommend the amended wind ordinance to the Tipton County Commissioners.

The new ordinance sets the following: setbacks will be 1,500 feet from a property line and 2,640 feet from a residential dwelling; shields will be placed on turbine lighting; shadow flicker is limited to 30 minutes per day and 30 hours per year; and noise levels are limited to 5 decibels above the ambient level. It also address how wind farms will be approved in the future.

Plan commission members voted to change the procedure for future wind farm developments in the county.

Currently the Board of Zoning Appeals has to grant a conditional use permit for the development of wind ordinance.

The new ordinance will create overlay districts where wind farms may be built.

Developers will have to request rezoning from the plan commission using the new setback requirements.

Wind companies, if granted approval for the overlay district by the plan commission and board of commissioners, can petition the BZA for a variance to lower the setback requirements.

For three hours in the packed auditorium of the 4-H building, commission members listened to opponents and supporters state their positions on the future of wind farms in Tipton County.

The public testimony revisited many of arguments concerning wind energy presented since juwi Wind applied for a conditional use permit for the proposed Prairie Breeze Wind Farm in northwestern Tipton County.

Mark Lynn, representing the anti-wind coalition Citizens for Responsible Development, said the group wanted to ban future wind farm developments.

The CRD wanted a three-mile setback and a property value guarantee, Lynn said, if the commission was going to vote in favor of allowing future wind energy projects.

Mike Orr, representing supporters of wind energy, said the opponents were fighting wind farm development by creating fear among county residents concerning property values, health and safety.

“The lines have been drawn for a compromise,” he said.

Orr said the group supported creating overlay districts that would specify where wind energy projects may be located.

Tom McKinney, a wind energy supporter who served on a committee seeking to reach a compromise, said the 1,500-foot setback for the placement of a wind turbine from property lines and 2,640 feet from a residential dwelling were reasonable.

He said the committee reached compromise agreements on lighting shields on the top of the turbines, shadow flicker and noise levels.

The approved ordinance came after an ad hoc committee of opponents and proponents worked out compromises on several issues.

Before voting to adopt the compromise agreement, plan commission members rejected a proposal to change the setback requirements and deadlocked on a proposal to limit turbine height to 140 feet, as done in Marshall County.

Following the vote, plan commission member Harry Diamond made a motion to allow wind companies to negotiate with property owners to lessen the setback distance to a minimum of 1,250 feet.

His proposal would also have allowed the placement of a wind turbine within 350 feet of a county roadway in areas where landowners were participating in a wind farm development.

Commission member Jim Ashley said Diamond’s motion to amend the new ordinance was out of order.

“We have just finished considering a complex document,” he said. “Let us digest the changes and do it in a timely fashion.”

Although several commission members expressed interest in Diamond’s proposal, they indicated a need for more time to consider the proposal.

The motion was defeated by a 5-to-2 vote.